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Agricultural News

Favorable Weather Could Mean Early Cotton Planting

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 11:48:49 CDT

Favorable Weather Could Mean Early Cotton Planting
Cotton planting for the 2012 season will begin soon. Thankfully, it has been raining this year as opposed to the severe drought in 2011. A lot of factors need to be considered this year as cotton producers get ready to plant. Dr. Randy Boman, Oklahoma State University Research Director and Extension Program Leader, has this advice to share with producers this year:

The 2012 cotton planting season is just around the corner. We have been very fortunate to receive badly needed rainfall in any areas of southwestern Oklahoma. The Altus Mesonet has recorded about 12 inches of rainfall since October 1. This rainfall has provided considerable relief for a lot of producers and we do have some good wheat in the area. March and early April rainfall has been highly beneficial in this situation. Weed pressure has steadily built over the last several months and producers have been busy trying to rein in this growth with herbicide applications. With all of this said, in the cotton patch we are still a long way from being healed up from the Great Drought of 2011 and we are certainly in much better shape than one year ago. We have aquifers which need recharging and we also badly need runoff in the North Fork of the Red River watershed which feeds Lake Lugert. Currently, the reservoir is about 22 percent of capacity. We need substantial runoff in the watershed soon. March, 2012 ended as the warmest on record across Oklahoma, going back to 1985. This indicates things are moving along at an accelerated pace. If this warming trend continues, I wouldn't be surprised to see producers watching the soil thermometers and soil moisture conditions and getting anxious to plant by the end of April.

With the recent rainfall, cotton producer optimism is increasing and there are some basic maintenance issues they should be considering. The most important equipment is the planter. It is important to double check bearings, discs, chains, vacuum system and plates to make sure everything is in excellent working condition. Badly-worn parts should be replaced to contribute to planting precision. Seed tubes can be plugged due to insects and trash accumulation. It is a good idea to make sure delivery tubes are clean and flowing freely.

We need to realize there is a significant art to planter adjustment. Each field should be assessed and as many producers are aware, even the soil and moisture variability in a given field can result in planter adjustment concerns. Soil moisture (good seed to moist soil contact) level is critical in the zone immediately surrounding the seed. If too much dry soil is removed from the planting zone, hard crusting or 'baking' behind the planter can occur, especially if high temperatures, wind and low humidity are a challenge at planting time.

Most modern planters have less likelihood of 'baking' although it may still be a concern in some instances. Seed should be planted in good moisture, probably not more than two inches deep, depending on the seed vigor, wind and heat forecast. Dry soil in the seed furrow or incomplete closing of the seed furrow may result in highly variable stands when difficult environmental conditions are encountered.

As far as soil temperatures are concerned, a good target is for soil temperatures to be at least 65 degrees at the four inch depth. The Mesonet provides a bare soil temperature at the four inch depth for each location. This can be accessed at http//agweather.mesonet.org/index.php/data/section/soil water. The single most important issue to recognize is that cotton seedlings can be damaged by cool, wet soils. Best management practices for cotton planting under normal soil moisture conditions would be to delay planting until (1) the three-day Mesonet soil temperatures at the four-inch depth are at least 65 degrees and (2) the five day forecast calls for dry weather and a minimum of 25-50 DD60 heat units. The normal calculation for daily cotton DD60 heat units is: ((maximum air temperature + minimum air temperature)/2)-60.

Essentially, the average air temperature for the day is determined and the 60 degree developmental threshold for cotton is subtracted. The DD60s for each day are then totaled. If you have faith in your local forecast, then the projected high and low for the following several days can be used to calculate future DD60s.

(3) Low temperatures are forecast to remain above 50 degrees for the five days following planting. Because of planting window constraints arising from the number of planters and acres to cover, this can be a nearly impossible goal.

"Even if planted into reasonably good moisture, growers should watch their fields for moisture loss in the seed zone, especially if high winds and heat follow planting. If producers are planning to follow planting with a center pivot irrigation, the seed should likely not be placed more than one and a half inches deep. Make sure it is covered well with soil.

Stand components consist of both uniformity and density. Uniformity of planting seed in the row is affected by planter type. The newer vacuum planters are extremely effective in controlling vertical distribution of the seed in the seed furrow and with horizontal spacing down the row. These modern planters typically provide excellent seed-to-soil contact capability. Seeding rate or density is controlled by the producer. The newer vacuum planters coupled with the generally higher seed quality today than what we many times encountered in the past, have allowed most producers to successfully reduce seeding rates.

However, because of the cost of transgenic varieties in addition to cost of insecticide seed treatments, many producers are pushing the agronomic minimum and living on the edge with little margin for error, so to speak. Many seeding rate trials have been conducted in southwestern Oklahoma and the Rolling and High Plains regions of Texas for the last several years. Results all point to the fact that seeding rates can be pushed to a lower level than what was generally accepted 10-15 years ago. However, the producer must have extreme trust in his planter, field-specific planting situation, seed quality and environmental conditions after planting. It is difficult to agronomically justify less than two seed/row-ft as a best management practice for dryland cotton production."



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